Fixing America: A Local Responsibility
In my last article, I talked about the degradation of values and acceptance of this disturbing trend that have become pervasive in this country. The America we thought we knew, the progress we thought we had made in race relations, acceptance of people who may not sound or look like us, and the ability to discuss difficult issues objectively seem distant goals once again.
So what can we do at the local level to counter these negative perceptions and realities? Lead by example.
Local government—interacting daily with the general public—is closer to the people than state or federal government. This closeness gives local leaders an opportunity to provide a positive contrast to the daily disfunction of certain leaders currently on the state and national stage. Here are some ideas that localities might consider to provide that positive contrast:
1) At each organizational meeting and in a public forum, adopt codes of ethics and operating procedures for councils and the boards of supervisors detailing how they will act and interact while conducting the locality's business.
2) Establish codes of conduct that detail the roles and responsibilities of elected officials, chief administrators, and staff. Included guidelines for elected officials to follow when communicating with the rest of the organization and with the public.
3) Adopt an organizational pledge, signed by all elected officials and employees, to treat all citizens equally, respectfully, and with transparency.
4) Enforce the terms. None of the above has any value unless there is an absolute commitment to enforcing the terms and conditions adopted. Far too often, elected officials shrink from their responsibility to police each other. Far too often, organizational rules are applied differently, depending on who you are or who you are related to. Equal treatment must be paramount.
If a community's leadership provides the right example, both politically and operationally, the general public will respect, and may even emulate, such behaviors. If leadership does not set the example of civility, who will?